Some More Foods of Vietnam

Trinh is checking out the rice a the local supermarket by smelling each handful. Smelled like rice to me. Of course, she doesn’t buy it here, because it costs 12 cents a more than the local outdoor market or rice store.
Hot Pot at our “new” Hot Pot Place
Grilled fish (sea fish) at home
A Pho place in our neighborhood
A seafood salad at home
Chicken wings with rice and rot kohl at home
Chicken wings with vegetable and rice at homEvery

Here is a week of food I’ve had. Now, of course, in any category, it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

 

Enjoy

Vietnam & Americans

I’ve hesitated writing this post for months.

From the WSJ

Why?

Because I know how sensitive this subject can be for Americans of my generation. I didn’t want to offend or disrespect anyone.

Disrespectful to the American veteran who was put into a shitty situation thru no fault of their own and told to fix it, without the tools to do so. Disrespectful to those who lost life and loved ones. Disrespectful to those Vietnamese, who if they survived the war years, then had 20 years of a very hard life or if lucky enough, were able to flee with only the clothes on their backs.

So, what changed? Living on and off here for the past year, I see people, no matter what their background who are truly appreciate of Americans, like Americans and just want to work hard.

I’m watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Hanoi. Find it someplace and you can see in pictures and sound what I am trying to explain poorly.

I just got back from two weeks in the country for the Tet holiday.  Upcountry as some could say, in Quang Nam province, just southwest of Danang.  Simply put, Tet is about remembering the dead and living. Country living here is like living in the countryside in Europe 30 years ago or the USA 50 years ago.  Yes, that means we have electricity and cold running water, but everything else may be luxury.

Former ARVN (left) & VC are now the best of freinds. (He had just showed me the scar of the hole in his leg when he was shot by VC) We then both looked at her and everyone laughed. (it was a bit surrealistic for me).
The memorial to the father of Trinh sister’s husband. KIA during Tet 1968 while fighting with/for the Americans.

I was overwhelmed with the warmth of the people: friends, neighbors and family of Trinh’s mother and family. They would lend us motorcycles to get around. I was invited to every neighbor’s party. Everyone had to come by and drink with me.  I drank a lot of beer and my new-found drink, rượu nếp, which is much like Korean makgeolli (막걸리, but a bit less effervescent.

I think Dauntless needs eyes

Now, cruising here with Dauntless is another story. A complicated story for another time.

Trihn’s mother’s house and memorial dinner

Tet – It’s Not Only a Holiday; It’s an Adventure

Yesterday as I was watching my girlfriend Trinh prepare the food at her grandmother’s grave, I realized how much my perspective has changed since crossing the Atlantic.

Food laid out at her grandmother’s grave

I accept a level of uncertainly, magnitudes above, what I would have been comfortable with even 10 years ago.

The cemetery is about 20 minutes from Trinh’s mother’s house, where we are staying these days of the Tet holiday. Trinh and her mother had been cooking all morning. Finally, they meticulously packed a large bad hat would sit between my legs in front of me on the motorbike.

We set off. I had been to the gravesite two days previously, so I thought I knew what was going to happen.  Upon arrival, I see the box of cookies we had left the previous visit. Obviously, her grandmother hadn’t eaten any. Yes, I was being flippant.

Incense was still burning; Trinh mentioned that her step-brother, must have just been here. I never knew she had a step brother, but what the hell, I’ve only known her for little more than a year!

Trinh proceeded to unpack the bag, which contained not only food, but plates, utensils, clothes and even money. When you’re dead who knows when you may need extra cash.

In spite of my flippancy, I really like, respect the Asian reverence for the dead and elderly. It was one of the differences (in my mind) between western and Asian cultures and a reason I became so attracted to first Korean and now Vietnamese culture.

After 15 minutes, Trinh was putting the final touches on the dinner. I watched as she meticulously spooned a little fish sauce seasoning on the two main plates, a tuna steak and a plate of sautéed squid. Looked so good, I thought it a shame to waste.  Knowing the Vietnamese don’t waste anything, I was surprised.

She poured little glasses of wine and water, giving the old water to the potted plants, and refilling the glasses with fresh water.

When everything was done, she lit the incense and did her little prayer ritual.

Then, just as I was thinking we were ready to leave, she started to undo all the work of the last 15 minutes by putting all the food back in the containers it had come it. Nothing wasted, even the little sauce, went back into its’ little bag.

(two short videos of her getting it ready, then putting it back)

Putting it all back

Surprised? Not really, more like bemused. After my first Atlantic crossing, I learned to not be surprised at anything. I also learned to not complain about anything. When I dared complain about the 12-foot waves, they became 18 feet.

Mother Nature taught me as only she can: Be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse.

Oh, I can still be as miserable as I want or as the situation dictates, I just can’t express how bad it is. Can’t even think it, for who knows who is reading your thoughts nowadays.

Those three storms, each a day apart, in the North Atlantic in the last week of August 2014, re-forged my brain.

New Yorkers grow up in a culture of excellence. That’s because we complain about anything that isn’t top notch, price notwithstanding. As teacher, then principal, I took that attitude with me. I did what was best for the students and built the teachers into a successful team. I complained to the powers to be about policies and procedures that were not conducive to student learning. I was listened to. While we had a reform minded Chancellor, that was very effective; but as soon as that Chancellor left, the reactionaries returned and I was out within 6 months. My only crime was my naivety that results (graduation rate from 40% to 70% in 4 years) would speak for themselves.

Food, money, wine, water, clothes and of course money (in USD of course)

Dauntless was the crucible that helped me through that abrupt change in life.

Three years later, on the North Atlantic, heading to Ireland, this was the forge. I would become accepting of what is or else. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept just anything. More than ever it simply means that if I’m not happy with a place or situation, I need to not be there or accept that I can’t change it.

Thirty minutes after arrival at her grandmother’s grave, now, really ready to leave, I still had to ask, with a little smile on my face, but what happens if she is still hungry? Trinh answered deadpan, “she ate”.

That was that. I knew what we were having for dinner and it was quite tasty, though the tuna was a bit drier than normal!

The North Atlantic taught me not to complain; to accept. The North Atlantic opened me to the possibility to be in an Asian culture in which even when I think I understand, I don’t.

I watch, observe, but don’t judge. I assume I don’t understand the full situation at any given time. I keep my questions simple, where do you want me, when?

I never ask why. Like waves on the ocean, it is, what it is, could be better, could be worse. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, but don’t try to change it.

Tet – It’s Not a Holiday, It’s an Adventure

Yesterday as I was watching my girlfriend Trinh prepare the food at her grandmother’s grave, I realized how much my perspective has changed since crossing the Atlantic.

Food laid out at her grandmother’s grave

I accept a level of uncertainly, magnitudes above, what I would have been comfortable with even 10 years ago.

The cemetery is about 20 minutes from Trinh’s mother’s house, where we are staying these days of the Tet holiday. Trinh and her mother had been cooking all morning. Finally, they meticulously packed a large bad hat would sit between my legs in front of me on the motorbike.

We set off. I had been to the gravesite two days previously, so I thought I knew what was going to happen.  Upon arrival, I see the box of cookies we had left the previous visit. Obviously, her grandmother hadn’t eaten any. Yes, I was being flippant.

Incense was still burning; Trinh mentioned that her step-brother, must have just been here. I never knew she had a step brother, but what the hell, I’ve only known her for little more than a year!

Trinh proceeded to unpack the bag, which contained not only food, but plates, utensils, clothes and even money. When you’re dead who knows when you may need extra cash.

In spite of my flippancy, I really like, respect the Asian reverence for the dead and elderly. It was one of the differences (in my mind) between western and Asian cultures and a reason I became so attracted to first Korean and now Vietnamese culture.

After 15 minutes, Trinh was putting the final touches on the dinner. I watched as she meticulously spooned a little fish sauce seasoning on the two main plates, a tuna steak and a plate of sautéed squid. Looked so good, I thought it a shame to waste.  Knowing the Vietnamese don’t waste anything, I was surprised.

She poured little glasses of wine and water, giving the old water to the potted plants, and refilling the glasses with fresh water.

When everything was done, she lit the incense and did her little prayer ritual.

Then, just as I was thinking we were ready to leave, she started to undo all the work of the last 15 minutes by putting all the food back in the containers it had come it. Nothing wasted, even the little sauce, went back into its’ little bag.

(two short videos of her getting it ready, then putting it back)

Putting it all back

Surprised? Not really, more like bemused. After my first Atlantic crossing, I learned to not be surprised at anything. I also learned to not complain about anything. When I dared complain about the 12-foot waves, they became 18 feet.

Mother Nature taught me as only she can: Be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse.

Oh, I can still be as miserable as I want or as the situation dictates, I just can’t express how bad it is. Can’t even think it, for who knows who is reading your thoughts nowadays.

Those three storms, each a day apart, in the North Atlantic in the last week of August 2014, re-forged my brain.

New Yorkers grow up in a culture of excellence. That’s because we complain about anything that isn’t top notch, price notwithstanding. As teacher, then principal, I took that attitude with me. I did what was best for the students and built the teachers into a successful team. I complained to the powers to be about policies and procedures that were not conducive to student learning. I was listened to. While we had a reform minded Chancellor, that was very effective; but as soon as that Chancellor left, the reactionaries returned and I was out within 6 months. My only crime was my naivety that results (graduation rate from 40% to 70% in 4 years) would speak for themselves.

Food, money, wine, water, clothes and of course money (in USD of course)

Dauntless was the crucible that helped me through that abrupt change in life.

Three years later, on the North Atlantic, heading to Ireland, this was the forge. I would become accepting of what is or else. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept just anything. More than ever it simply means that if I’m not happy with a place or situation, I need to not be there or accept that I can’t change it.

Thirty minutes after arrival at her grandmother’s grave, now, really ready to leave, I still had to ask, with a little smile on my face, but what happens if she is still hungry? Trinh answered deadpan, “she ate”.

That was that. I knew what we were having for dinner and it was quite tasty, though the tuna was a bit drier than normal!

The North Atlantic taught me not to complain; to accept. The North Atlantic opened me to the possibility to be in an Asian culture in which even when I think I understand, I don’t.

I watch, observe, but don’t judge. I assume I don’t understand the full situation at any given time. I keep my questions simple, where do you want me, when?

I never ask why. Like waves on the ocean, it is, what it is, could be better, could be worse. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, but don’t try to change it.

Maybe the Happiest Day in Vietnam Since the End of the War?

And for once, that may not be an exaggeration.

Yesterday, Vietnam beat Qatar in the semi-finals for ASEA U23. I think it’s the first time Vietnam has ever been in the finals. It was a very close game and the Vietnam team kept on coming back each time they fell behind.

But I had no idea the town, HCMC, would go so wild.  When Trinh asked if I wanted to go out and check out downtown, I said sure, I’m always up for an adventure.

These pictures and videos show the traffic, at a density I have never seen before. The main road we are on is a road I take a few times per week, sometimes at rush hour. The traffic is heavy and slower (10mph instead of 20 or 25mph!), but this gridlock, this number of motorbikes and people on the road was astounding.

I was also struck by the number of families out. It was clear from how people were dressed, that many had picked up family members after work or been picked up.  Many, like Trinh, had gone home to pick up her son, Thien, after his after-school tutoring that ended at 7:00 p.m.

We only got about halfway to our intended destination, by then I realized it was more about the experience and not about the place.

The final will be Saturday afternoon. I’m sure it will be interesting.

A few more pictures and videos of the crowds can be found at: https://dauntless.smugmug.com/Vietnam-Life/Asian-Cup-U23-Semi-Final-Victory-Celebration/

 

On a side note. As a proud American and military veteran, even after 9 months, I still have mixed feelings of seeing the (North) Vietnamese flag flying. This night there were more than I’ve ever seen, hundreds of times more than on Independence Day. But in spite of that history, in all my travels around the world, the Vietnamese here in Ho Chi Minh City, (Saigon) are the friendliest to Americans I’ve ever encountered.

Ever.

Vietnam Tells You How to Avoid Storm at Sea

With Tropical Cyclone 21W (Doksuri) bearing down on northern Vietnam, they gave this 4 minute video of how to avoid the storm if at sea.

I don’t understand a word, but I like it because it’s pretty understandable.  Some explanations:

  • In the beginning, the Cap 11, refer to winds of Force 11, which is when  action big ships should take, the Cap 6 is for smaller boats.
  • The depiction with the forward hatch is to make sure you have all hatches and doors secured.
  • The anchor thing is that if you do call for rescue, to deploy your anchor.
  • The capsize is don’t let the seas get on your beam.

Putting out liquid Fires

Liquid Fires

This was quite spectacular because I have never seen office workers actually getting “hands-on” learning how to use a fire extinguisher to put out propane and liquid fuel fires.

They also watched how to deploy and connect the firefighting hose that are everywhere, as well as outside my apartment door.

So, I thought you would you find this interesting and it is certainly applicable to boaters like us.

Opposite my Apt Door by the Exit Stairwell

The Videos below, show the following:

 Putting out Propane Fires

Propane

 Putting out Propane Fires

Getting Fire Hose (which is then used to fill tub for the liquid portion of the training

Putting out liquid Fires

 Putting out liquid Fires

What Happens if you run out of fire extinguisher

 

 

 

Fire Training in HCMC, Vietnam

Liquid Fires

This was quite spectacular because I have never seen office workers actually getting “hands-on” learning how to use a fire extinguisher to put out propane and liquid fuel fires.

They also watched how to deploy and connect the firefighting hose that are everywhere, as well as outside my apartment door.

So, I thought you would you find this interesting and it is certainly applicable to boaters like us.

Opposite my Apt Door by the Exit Stairwell

The Videos below, show the following:

 Putting out Propane Fires

Propane

 Putting out Propane Fires

Getting Fire Hose (which is then used to fill tub for the liquid portion of the training

Putting out liquid Fires

 Putting out liquid Fires

What Happens if you run out of fire extinguisher

 

 

 

More Traffic from Ho Chi Minh City

A few more interesting observations:

  • People really don’t drive any worse than most places, in fact, driving, riding two wheelers make you drive much better, otherwise you don’t last very long.
  • There is no road rage. None. People will stop in the weirdest places, everyone just goes around, with nary a glance.
  • I’m getting accustomed to the “45° left turn”. We are taught to stop in the intersection and make a sharp 90° turn. 4 wheeled vehicles do that here, but not two wheeled conveyances, no they make a turn which puts them into opposing traffic for a while.  It looks much scarier than it is to actually do.  Doing it, it seems more natural since it’s easier to visualize the clear line.
  • Speeds are slow and the heavier the traffic, the slower the traffic, so the contacts that happen between motorbikes are usually less than 10 mph, more often only 5.
  • Anticipation (Defensive Driving) is the key.  Everyone seems to assume that no one will stop if making a right turn or opposing traffic is just that.
  • Larger vehicles, trucks, buses and cars are very timid and not very aggressive.

Here a few more videos of traffic:

The Intersection Near My Apartment

The Key Caper

Soooo, I’d thought about what happens if I lose my key to my motorbike. And like all self-fulling prophesies, this one came through a few days ago. A good reason not to anticipate doom.

The Key Lady works to make my new bike key

I had parked my bike next to the market and upon return, could not find my key.

A man nearby, seeing our fruitless search, came over, and talked with Trinh a bit to determine the problem. He returned a few minutes later with a Yamaha key for a motorbike similar to mine and voila, it worked, not perfectly, but it worked.

So, it was decided he’d drive with me 50 meters to the spot he anticipated a locksmith to be.

But alas, the locksmith cart turned out to be a watch cart.

Trinh had followed behind on foot and after more talk, new plan: we’d take the key and drive motorbike to a key cart.

Well, the search became ever wider and Trinh decided to go to the key cart woman she knew existed about 10 minutes away near her house. so that’s what we did that.

After looking and trying our borrowed key, that while it worked, was not perfect, she got another new similar key, which she tried in the both the ignition and seat locks.

She then got her metal rasp and started filing away on certain teeth, fine tuning the new key. Ten minutes later it worked (better than the key I lost) and she also made a duplicate for me.

I paid her 50,000 VCD or US$ 2.10

This entire process took less than an hour, on a Sunday no less and cost two bucks.

I ended up better than before and it happened because everyone was helpful and friendly.

Vietnam is a place that just works. They find a way to make a solution, usually a handmade solution.

No wonder I love the place.

 

Markets in HCMC

I am amazed by the markets in HCMC.

 

If you Google “markets” about 10 show up. The problem with Google or any trip app for that matter is that they do well with the stuff on the bean path, but once off that path, fuhgeddaboudit.

Therefore, even the reviews must be read with “a grain of salt”.

I’ve thought about writing this post for a long time. Just remember that the key to live successfully in a different culture is to accept what is, as is. Every place I’ve ever lived has advantages and disadvantages compared to somewhere else.

Vietnam is no different.

Vietnam has really grown on me.  The people are so very nice, curious and so very hard working.

On this trip to the market, Trinh (pronounced “din”) was looking for pork chops and some squid.

A few things that stand out:

  • I see you bugs or flies, ever. Maybe Agent Orange did them all in, but will so much meat hanging, I’ve never seen even one fly.
  • Trinh touches and feels closely anything she is interested in.  I realize the first step in her fantastic cooking is the selection and preparation.
  • Any place you can walk, a bicycle can go, anyplace a bicycle can go, a motorbike can go.
  • products, produce from China is plentiful and is usually less expensive; but is avoided whenever possible.
  • Fish and shellfish need to be brought early in the day, from 06:00 to 10:00, not after.

 

People waiting outside the market
Trigh gets some chopped garlic
Three different types of garlic. Bottom basket is from Vietnam, as is the red garlic. top of picture garlic is from China. It’s cheaper but is to be avoided.
traffic jam

the clothes section

 

A Little Apartment in Ho Chi Minh City

Looking Out

So, I feel bad that I have neglected both my blogs so badly.

My Apartment

Today I finally realized why:  I’m simply overwhelmed with all the new information and I want to write about it, show pictures of it in some coherent manner.

So, I’m waiting for perfection.

Well, that’s a long wait, so I thought it would be better just to write about what’s on my mind now, show what pictures relate and move on.

I’m also conscious of not having people who read this judge it and the people on our standards.  It’s what we know, but we don’t know everything.

Who’d had think that I can live without hot running water?  And I could get an electric on demand water heater for all of $75, but it’s good for me to be a little less “empfindlich”, a good German description of a cross between sensitive and picky (as in too picky).

This is a little video of my little 2-bedroom apartment in HCMC.  It’s in Dam Sen, about 5 miles west of downtown (the main business center).

I love the people, the life, but it’s hot and humid and I do miss Dauntless.

So, let’s leave it for now.